Wednesday 25 January 2023


The African sun is tickling my nose and my feet are curling their toes in the caramel coloured sand having sailed from the desert further East. The fine grains are covering, like a delicate carpet, the underlying gravel, black as night, which forms a solid grounding for my steady treading ahead. On my left, the caramel carpet turns into a glittering glacis, caressed by the retreating waves of the churning waters that divide us from the ancient continent. 

“With age comes wisdom”, they say. With me, it comes with a landfill of memories that re-emerge from time to time, especially on occasions such as this: when taking a leisurely stroll on the “Playa del Inglès” in Maspalomas on Gran Canaria. The more so, since this year is a “Jubilee”. In January 1993, thirty years ago, I arrived on the felicitous isle for the first time. 

It was not an auspicious occasion. Worn out was I, after half a year’s wrangling with troubles in the financial sector (see Good Night Sweden) and my former wife had passed away just a month afore. Not even the warm sun and delights of this island close to Aftica could assuage the dark thoughts clouding my mind. So I spent the week walking, in deep melancholic reflections, along the strand promenade in Maspalomas, not giving any thought to either the wonders of the beach or the challenges of the mountains in the island’s interior; just feeling miserable and longing to be back in Stockholm as timely as possible. 

Emil the Beachcomber                         Emil the Mountain Man

First after a ten years’ hiatus I started to really discover this sunkissed isle. By then I had already moved to Brussels and settled in there to live the life of a challenged, but still sedate European Functionnaire. Thus, as soon as having returned to the island, in January 2003,I undertook with a more open mind to explore the treasures that such a resort had to offer. This was when I discovered the immense pleasure of taking off my shoes and let the toes curl around the mellow sands on a real beach. 

Not only that: within the decade since my first visit, a number of Austrian and Belgian enterprising enthusiasts had opened business for guided tours into the island’s interior. Glad to grab this opportunity, I spent half of my stay with hiking the interior, and the rest with treading barefoot on the beach. 

Since then, not a January has passed by without me returning to the felicitous isle. I am an old man now, soon octogenerian, so hiking in the mountains is no longer an option for my tired limbs. But the immense pleasure of curating your feet through walking the beach barefoot is definitely an option for me to explore as long as I am able to move my limbs at all and taking the flight South to this delight. 

Three valiant leaders
          José                                    Dieter                                     Manfred

During my twenty years of vigorous January exercises, I have met many interesting people that are as engaged as I am in these bodily activities. Among them, four are standing out, three of them tour guides and one of them co-founder of the main biking tour group on the island.

José Vanderveken, of Flemish/Spanish descent, is one of the pioneers as guide of hiking and biking groups on Gran Canaria. He was also my first guide, with whom I ventured into the interior twenty years ago. With his smooth apparition and original descriptions of nature and culture, he is standing out as one of the grand old men of introducing tourists to outdoor activities. 

Speaking of grand old men: Der Olle Dieter, already an octogenerian now, who took up the job of hiking guide first in his seventies, has also been a delight to experience. He has a special gift in story telling, which has made many a hiker’s walk seemingly short whilst listening to his enjoyable yarns along the way.

In later years, I hiked increasingly with Manfred Ritsch as guide. As I was getting weaker in the feet, I benefitted increasingly from his habit of making numerous stops along the way, to explain to us ignorami the botanical wonders on Gran Canaria in exquisite detail. 

Last but not least, let me present to you Sandra Mäser, the great entrepreneur who co-started the company Free Motion, which, from humble origins, has developed into the grandest business for biking tours on the Canaries. I am pleased to say that I witnessed its development from its early starts. Twenty years ago, Sandra was still leading Nordic Walking tours in the dunes and along the beach of Maspalomas. But, from the outset, her's has mainly been a biking company and has since ceased to provide hiking tours, to my regret. 

All these notables are my friendly imaginary companions, as I am treading my way on the blessed beach of Maspalomas. As I am slowly advancing, putting foot upon foot on the mellow sand, only to be cooled off by intermittent tipping into the salty waves, the beach seems to stretch ahead to infinity. Eventually, I am falling into trance and hardly notice that I am ambling along. In my dream-state, the far away wispy clouds are gradually turning into a mirage: the picture of a transparent and alluring female that beckons ahead and starts dropping sweet words of encouragement into my eager ears. Yes, sweet apparition, I will come back to you every New Year in future, as I have done the past twenty years! 

Komm zurück!                      

Ich warte auf dich,                

denn du bist für mich                   

all mein Glück!                      

                                Komm zurück!

                                Ruft mein Herz immerzu,

                                Nun erfülle du

                                mein Geschick!

Ist der Weg auch weit,

führt er dich und auch mich

in die Seligkeit.

Darum bitt ich dich heut,

komm zurück!

Come always back to me!        

I will wait for you,                     

my fullfillment!                          

                                Come always back to me!

                                My heart yearns for you,

                                my destiny!

May your way be long,

it will lead us to eternal bliss.

So, I beg you now,

Come always back to me!

As I am continuing onward with my beach ambling, the apparition’s sweet words slowly but surely seem to turn into music; I begin humming a tune, almost a century old and lost for generations. Alas, the modern wonders of Internet permit us to conjure back what once seemed irretrievably gone. Why not benefit from this, lean back and savour this olden tune together with me: